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ACLU Lens: Citizenship At Birth Under the 14th Amendment

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January 5, 2011

Today a group of state legislators announced they will introduce bills in their state legislatures intended to deny Americans the fundamental protections of the 14th Amendment by requiring states to deny standard birth certificates to many U.S. citizen babies born in the U.S. to immigrant parents. The proposed legislation directly contradicts the long-standing 14th Amendment guarantee that all people born in the U.S. and under its jurisdiction are citizens of the U.S. and the state in which they reside and subject to equal protection under the law. If enacted, the bills are unlikely to survive legal scrutiny since the Constitution can only be changed by amendment, not by state or federal statute.

“Who can be a citizen of the United States and enjoy the equal protection of the law should never be subject to the political and discriminatory whims of the day,” said Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Project.

Lucas Guttentag, Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said, “It would be hard to concoct a proposal that is more misguided and contrary to the sacrosanct guarantee of the 14th Amendment. Equality under the law for every person born in the United States is one of the Constitution’s central engines of equality and fundamental to our society.”

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